CERAH, a civil society movement formed to address the haze problem in the region, launched its website in conjunction with Earth Hour last weekend.
They also launched their pledge to call for consumers to buy haze-free products.
“We hope to collect 100,000 signatures to influence brands to adopt haze-free labelling on their products and encourage manufacturers to adhere to international standards for sustainable production,” said Cerah founder Animah Kosai, adding that the signatories could be Malaysians or those from other countries.
Cerah, which means “bright” in Malay, was formed by a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life who wanted to take a multi-pronged strategy to address the haze problem.
Similar to how Earth Hour serves as a global movement towards action on climate change, Cerah hopes to affect real change across Asia by finding people-driven solutions on the haze.
“Cerah was formed in October last year, after we grew tired of the noxious fumes and grey skies that enveloped the country,” said Animah.
“The name and logo were chosen to reflect our hope for clear skies. Rather than finger-pointing, such as at small-time farmers in Indonesia who resort to open burning out of sheer poverty, we want to commit to real action and find solutions for the problem.”
On the pledge to buy haze-free products, she explained: “We want plantations, manufacturers, retailers and supermarkets to be aware that we as consumers can speak with our wallet.
“We want them to adopt proper labelling for consumer products. These certifications, such as those by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), would ensure the companies are upholding proper environmental and sustainable practices.
“As a start, the labelling would include palm oil, pulp and wood products. Not many are aware that palm oil is present in about half the products in a supermarket, such as chocolates, toothpaste and cosmetics.”
RSPO and FSC labelling is practised in countries such as Australia and the UK.
Some examples of FSC- or RSPO-certified products include cups and paper-based packaging, stationery, cookies, candy and sauces.
Members of Cerah include scientists and academicians who are able to identify and offer solutions to stop the haze problem at the basic level, as well as lawyers who work on the legal aspects of the issue.
“Our next step is lobbying on the legal and business aspects and pressuring the Government. For example, we want to get banks and investors to truly commit themselves to more environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices, as such a framework already exists.
“We hope to work with members of the Bar Council’s Environmental and Climate Change Committee to draw up a Trans-Boundary Pollution Act, similar to what Singapore has, to allow us to take cross-border action,” said Animah, adding that Cerah hoped to hook up with Singaporean groups who are well versed on haze matters.
The website and pledge launch, which took place at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park, saw Cerah members and supporters having a picnic by candlelight while being out in nature.
Activities were also held for children from the nearby PPR Kota Damansara flats to spread awareness on Earth Hour and environmental conservation.
To sign the pledge and to find out more about Cerah, visit www.cerah.asia, follow them @cerahasia on Twitter and Instagram, or look for “Cerah – Clear Skies and Beyond” on Facebook.